TUESDAY July 24, 2012 — Researchers who found that two out of three severely obese children already have at least one risk factor for heart disease say their findings are cause for concern in light of increasing rates of childhood obesity.
The study authors assessed heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, diabetes and cholesterol in 307 severely obese children, aged 2 to 18 years, in the Netherlands.
Boys tended to be more severely obese than girls at a younger age, while the reverse was true for girls, according to the study published online July 23 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of the children had at least one risk factor for heart disease. When it came to specific risk factors, 56 percent of the children had high blood pressure, 54 percent had high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, 14 percent had high blood sugar and just under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes.
The researchers were surprised to find that 62 percent of children aged 12 and younger had one or more heart disease risk factors.
Nearly one in three of the children came from one-parent families. Only one child’s obesity was due to medical rather than lifestyle factors, Dr. Joana Kist-van Holthe, of the department of public and occupational health at EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues noted.
“Internationally accepted criteria for defining severe obesity, and guidelines for early detection and treatment of severe obesity and [underlying ill health] are urgently needed,” the researchers concluded in a journal news release.